With our modern day medical miracles, I don’t think we realize how potentially dangerous the flu can be.
For me, taking the shot is well worth it, so I hope you will consider getting the vaccine for your family sooner rather than later. Several years ago, I began getting my vaccine in September. The school where I worked offered the vaccine at a discount, and later on for free, but the clinic was always held after our Fall Break, and my husband and I traveled during the breaks. I wanted to be protected while traveling. This past year, the school did not set the flu vaccine clinic for staff and students until early November. The week before the clinic was scheduled, the flu virus ran rampant through the school, forcing it to close for a few days in an attempt to stop the spread while giving those infected time to recuperate. Had the school scheduled the annual flu vaccine clinic earlier in the school year, this closure may have been avoided. The earlier one gets his or her vaccine, the less likely he or she is to become ill with influenza.
What exactly is “the flu”? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more commonly known as the CDC, “influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year” (CDC). In addition to getting vaccinated, washing hands well and often is another good way to avoid becoming ill.
According to the CDC, symptoms of the flu include some or all of the following, and severity of these symptoms vary.
- fever/feeling feverish and/or chills
- body/muscle aches
- lethargy (tiredness)
- cough and/or sore throat
- stuffy or runny nose
Usually those who succumb to the flu will experience symptoms from a few days to a couple of weeks. If those who do get sick with the flu see a healthcare professional early enough (within the first two days of symptoms), an anti-viral medication known as Tamiflu can be given to alleviate symptoms and reduce the “down” time from the flu. However, influenza can lead to deadly complications; it is not to be taken lightly.
Just how dangerous is the flu? According to Time, “several times a century, flu viruses mutate so radically that they can trigger a pandemic.” Flu.gov states that the “Spanish Flu epidemic of 1818-1819 impacted somewhere between 20% to 40% of the world’s population. Approximately 50 million people died. Not all died from the flu itself; some died from other diseases that were complications of the flu. Many people who felt well in the morning were deceased by nightfall. Almost three-quarters of a million of the deaths were in the United States. In more recent years, death totals have not been so huge, yet people do die each year from flu and flu-related complications. For example, in 2009, the CDC estimated that one-half million people died world wide as a result of the flu or its complications.
Influenza vaccine is unique in that it is one of the few, if not the only, vaccines that is updated annually. According to the CDC , “flu vaccines are designed to protect against the influenza viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: Influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. Each year, these viruses are used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.
The 2013-2014 trivalent influenza vaccine is made from the following three viruses:
- an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
- an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011;
- a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.
It is recommended that the quadrivalent vaccine containing two influenza B viruses include the above three viruses and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.” (Follow this link HERE to the source of this information to find out more.)
While the over all dangers of influenza may not seem to be (and may not be) as bad as in the past, it is still a disease that all of us should take seriously. While no vaccine can guarantee one will not get a strain of the flu, the chances are reduced significantly and the potential of complications are limited.
Have a blessed and happy day!